Trying not to look at Autism as a bad thing can be a full time job. I was raised with this mentality that he is who he is, he’s your brother, love him. So, when he was annoying, when he yelled, when he scratched, I didn’t think “Oh it’s because he’s autistic”, I thought “I’ll get you back for this!”. He’s a little brother, he’s supposed to be annoying and it’s not because he’s on the spectrum. What people don’t understand is the damage these excuses can cause. Instinct will tell a family member to pounce when their own is threatened, not make up excuses for their behaviour. But somewhere along the line, the stigma weighed down on Autism so hard that the balance shifted from primal to subdued.
It’s difficult being an Autism family because of the Autism, but also because of the way society treats you. So, here are a couple of things that we did that may help you embrace the lifestyle you have been thrown into instead of condemn it.
- Speak about them like they are not in the room: It is so easy to do. When someone is in the room and they don’t reply to their name, they are staring at a game or lying on the floor; you don’t think they can hear you, because if they can, why do they not respond? Listening isn’t about responding. Listening is just listening; to everything. It doesn’t matter whether they turn around when you call their name – they can hear you there’s just too much going on in their brain at that moment that you are not a priority. If they have sensory overload, it might mean that a noise, a feeling, a colour is even more powerful than your voice in their ear. Don’t speak like they are not in the room – and if you have to talk about them make sure to be close to them, touch them so that they know they are acknowledged. This way they know you know they are there. This might stop you from complaining, and saying things that you wouldn’t dare say if your child was not on the spectrum. They can hear you; whether it’s praise, complaints, crying, yelling, lying.
- Blame it all on Autism: Their anger that the DVD is sticking isn’t because of their Autism; it’s because it’s annoying. Their irritation when it’s warm and avoiding hugs or touch isn’t because of their Autism, it’s because it’s irritating being hot and uncomfortable and the last thing you need is another warm hand around you. When they need ask where you are taking them, it’s because they want to know where you are takinf them. When they play the same song over and over and over again, it’s because they love that song. If they are good at math, if they don’t like small talk, if they are honest, if they are anxious, it’s not their Autism it’s their character. Make sure you and the people around you understand this so that they can grow up in an environment where they are not held back by their Autism.
- Hide: Be proud of your autism family. t’s a lesson; it makes you stronger; it gives you dreams, ideas, perspective; it makes you appreciate little things, like silence or a lazy Sunday morning; it helps you empathise with the people you come into contact with everyday; it makes you a teacher; it makes you read, research; it makes you risk, dare and defy. Flaunt your extraordinary kid, show the world how living with Autism is so difficult but that you are handling it. Build up their self-esteem by working on yours; don’t let the world let you feel like you are deficient. Show the world that it would be deficient without you, and your family.
- Hate their Autism: Don’t hate their Autism. Their Autism is them. Loving them but hating their Autism is like saying I love you but I hate your character, I hate the quirks that make you unique, I hate how difficult it is to be around you. You don’t mean it, but saying i love you despite your Autism, or i just hate Autism can be so hurtful, so damaging to their development. It’s like telling them that there is a part of them, that they cannot change, that you hate.
Autism does not define them. Don’t let it define your love for them – define their Autism with your love.